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Becoming a Vegetarian or Semi-Vegetarian?

Updated on June 8, 2013

Vegetarians Still Enjoy Hot Chocolate and Biscotti!

Being a vegetarian doesn't mean giving up the good stuff!
Being a vegetarian doesn't mean giving up the good stuff!

Making the Change

If you've always eaten beef, pork and poultry and have decided to make the transition to becoming a vegetarian, it's nice to see that there are a few choices to make this change a little easier. This isn't to say that these options weren't always there, but they have become increasingly available over the past few years. Even some fast food restaurants are catering to vegetarians, including a garden burger on their menus.

About seven years ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. Now, I can't say I'm a true vegetarian. I do eat fish and occasionally I have been known to "cheat" and have a piece of steak, but I'd say for the most part I've made the change.

It can get interesting when I tell people that, because I've encountered some who assume that all I eat is salad, which I can assure you is definitely not the case. Others will make a snide comment or two, complaining in disbelief that I don't want a steak, as if somehow my choice of food will affect our relationship or my personality. Since what other people eat doesn't affect me in the least, (unless of course, they are cannibals), I brush these kind of people off, ignore them and go about my merry way. I've never looked down upon someone who enjoys a cheeseburger or juicy steak, so I simply have to laugh that it will personally offend them or adversely affect them in some weird, mystifying way if my meal is sans meat.

When I first decided to make this change, I thought it would be difficult and that my decision wouldn't last. As it turned out, there are so many vegetarian options on the shelves today, that I hadn't really noticed much of a difference. For some, it may be difficult, especially if they are a meat and potatoes type of person, but for the most part, there are vegetarian substitutions for almost all kinds of meats.

Why Make the Switch

It's a personal choice really. Some do it because of their love for animals. Others do it for health reasons. Others simply because they like the taste of veggie burgers over traditional hamburgers. For me, it was a combination of all three. I do love animals, wanted to eat a little healthier and quite honestly, if you take a veggie burger throw on some ketchup and pickles, it doesn't taste much different, at least not to me.

Don't Forget Fruits and Vegetables!

Fruits can be a delicious snack!
Fruits can be a delicious snack!

What to Eat

I find the one thing you have to be careful with upon becoming a vegetarian (or semi-vegetarian as I am) is that you don't only eat boxed foods. A lot of them are definitely lower in calories and fat per serving, however, some have high sodium, which can often negate the purpose of eating healthier. Some alternatives are eggplant, tofu, eggs and beans. When cooking eggplant, you can make it as rich or as simple as you want. Of course, eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini is absolutely delicious vegetarian option, but with it, comes many calories and fat. A healthier alternative would be to add spinach to fill most of the rollatini and half the cheese that you normally would. Using a low-fat or no-fat cheese is an option as well.

For tofu, the kind that goes well with a stir-fry is the firm block of it sold at Trader Joes. It's a different texture than the tofu that you find in Miso soup, and is actually quite yummy when made with a sesame or Thai marinade. Many of my non-vegetarian friends actually enjoy this as well.

Of course, some other options are the old standbys of pizza, ravioli or pasta with garlic and oil.

As far as the boxed burgers and meatless meat sold in the market, Morningstar and Boca are the brands that I find to be the tastiest and have the most variety. For a list of their foods, click here http://www.bocaburger.com/ and https://www.morningstarfarms.com/. If using breakfast meats, I typically choose the Boca Sausage links. These are tasty and low calorie with only 40 calories per link. Morningstar vegetarian bacon is another good breakfast food to stock in your freezer. Goes perfect with an omelet or an English muffin

Morningstar original burgers only have 130 calories. But it doesn't end there, Morningstar sells vegetarian chop meat, breaded chickenless chicken and much more. As a salad topping, their veggie patties are perfect, adding a little zest to any salad.

Their vegetarian chop meat can be used in any recipe that calls for meat. Use it in enchiladas or tacos, as well as in tomato sauce. They even have veggie dogs instead of hot dogs!

One additional brand that has some wonderful options is Quorn. Take a browse on their website at http://www.quorn.com/welcome/ . I've found their chicken is one of the best tasting on the market.

Which Supermarkets Carry Vegetarian Foods?

Fortunately, each supermarket carries a little variety of all brands. Living on the West Coast, Smiths and Whole Foods probably have the most selections. While Albertsons and Trader Joes have a few from each brand.

On the East Coast, Stop and Shop carries a fairly decent variety.

Which Restaurants Carry Veggie Burgers?

I've noticed that more and more restaurants are catering to the Vegetarian. The ones that stand out in my mind are Red Robin and The Yardhouse. Red Robin will substitute any burger (or chicken burger) option on their menu with a Boca Patty or Garden Burger. You just have to let them know. They also have a very cool website that allows you to calculate the nutrition on each entrée if you are one who counts calories. Just click here and then click on the nutrition customizer http://www.redrobin.com/menu/#.The Yardhouse is located on both the East and West Coast and devotes a small section of their menu to vegetarian options.

Salads Don't Have to be Boring!

Veggie patties can be the perfect healthy alternative in a salad, in place of bacon bits or croutons!
Veggie patties can be the perfect healthy alternative in a salad, in place of bacon bits or croutons!

Well, I Don't Want to be a Vegetarian

Many of the veggie burgers are suitable for even those who have no desire to become a vegetarian. They offer a healthier alternative and are quite tasty. Next time you are in your supermarket, perhaps you'll give it a try, even just as a topping for your healthy salad! And speaking of salads, spice it up with some craisins, cranberries, olives, cucumbers, red onions,candied walnuts and feta, bleu or goat cheese. Drizzle on some rasberry dressing and it becomes a meal in itself!

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    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      I definitely agree--a well-made veggie burger is just as good as a hamburger as far as I'm concerned. I had to laugh when you say that what other people eat doesn't affect you, unless they're a cannibal! Your salad fixings make me want to make one right now. Thanks!

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Vespawoolf, hee hee- glad I made you chuckle a bit. And definitely, if it is a salad well-made, it can be so delicious. There is an Italian restaurant by me that serves a simple chilled iceberg lettuce wedge with bleu cheese dressing and it is to die for! Tried making it myself- but just wasn't as good!

    • angryelf profile image

      angryelf 3 years ago from Tennessee

      I cannot go vegetarian, just no way hahaha, but I do love some veggies. And yes, those veggie burgers aren't so bad. At Burger King, their veggie burger is pretty good too! Great article!! Upvoted :)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      Yum...the blue cheese wedge salad sounds fabulous. No I really am going to have to satisfy my salad craving. : )

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I was a vegetarian for many years, then a vegan for a few years. Now I am an ovo-pescetarian, which means I eat an occasional organic egg from humanely-raised hens fed non-GMO feed plus a small amount of sustainable, low-mercury fish. Mostly, I eat vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and whole grains. What I DON'T eat is soy. I'll tell you why.

      Veggie burgers are a big "no" with me, mostly because I ate the commercially-produced ones made with soy frequently while I was a vegan. This went on for several years, and, because I didn't know the harm that unfermented soy can cause the thyroid gland, I "wrecked" my throid and didn't know it until it was too late. My thyroid and nodules wrapped around my esophagus had to be removed, and I must take a daily thyroid extract medication for the remainder of my life. The thyroid med, while I'm glad it's available, does not "work" as well as a fully-functioning thyroid gland. I wish I'd learned the truth about soy long before I did and before it ruined my thyroid function. All I can do is warn other people who eat a lot of unfermented soy (such as is found in soy milk and soy burgers) that you're playing Russian Roulette with your thyroid gland.

      Unless you purchase a soy product labeled "organic", you are also going to be eating a GMO product and likely one that contains hexene (look it up--you don't want it, I promise).

      If you must have veggie burgers, there are lots of good recipes for making them yourself from scratch using beans, grains and vegetables such as carrots that are much safer than eating the commercially-produced ones.

      Voted Up+

      Jaye

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Angryelf- I know what you mean, becoming a vegetarian isn't for everyone. I even still eat fish and sometimes...maybe once or twice a year, I'll have some steak. I do miss Italian heroes! That will be my next "cheat." While there are so many substitiutions for meatless food, I can't find cold cuts that taste like a real Italian hero!! Thank you for commenting!

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      You are too funny. Enjoy your salad and feel free to share what you put in it! Hmm- now I want one. It's catching!! :)

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Jaye, Thank you for your comment! I will go to look up the GMO products now- definitely don't want any thyroid issues. That is such a shame that it happened to you! Though I don't always have the time to cook, if possible, fresh produce is probably the way to go. There are good vegetarian recipes and so many cookbooks on the shelves catering to vegetarians. Many of the meals are delicious! Thank you so much for your comment and the information. Much appreciated!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I just can't do it my friend. I like meat too much. :) I will pass this one to my wife, though, as I'm sure she will find it helpful.

      I hope you are having a great weekend.

      bill

    • ladydeonne profile image

      Deonne Anderson 3 years ago from Florence, SC

      Very good and useful information. I am practically a vegetarian now. I eat meat maybe (1) day a week. It is my desire to discontinue eating meat all together. You have inspired me.

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      billybuc - oh that is totally fine. :) I would never be one to try to force someone to be a vegetarian- it's not for everyone!! Thank you for commenting and for passing this on to your wife!

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      ladydeonne- I thought it would be more difficult to make the switch but I was never a die-hard meat eater, so it didn't affect me too badly. I don't even miss it ... but on the rare times that I do, I indulge and then back to being a vegetarian for a while!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Great article! I remember when my ex-husband (when I was with him) heard that my brother's friend was vegetarian, he actually became defensive about it, and made a snide remark. I don't ever understand that. I mean, it's not like most vegetarians are trying to force their lifestyle on everyone else, they are just living the lifestyle they choose. No harm done! Of course, some people react almost the same way when they find out someone is on a diet. Maybe they just feel bad? I'll never know, I guess.

      These are great suggestions.

      I eat meat, although I also like vegetarian foods. I love veggie burgers! I had a Morningstar Black Bean burger for lunch, actually. I don't necessarily have it instead of a burger, I just eat it because I like the way it tastes. But I remember one time when my former bosses were making burgers for the whole team, they let a few of us have veggie burgers instead. That made me happy, because I can't always take the excessive oil in most hamburgers.

      They really have come a long way with the vegetarian choices, and I like it. It makes it easier for those who are trying to live a healthy meat-free lifestyle.

      Great article. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      So funny about your ex-husband- some people think what others eat personally affects them somehow. I don't mind people teasing me in a friendly way about it, but some get downright mad! Who knows what is going through their minds. Oh, that black bean burger is good. There is a new chick pea one too- good in salads. Thanks again!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Mmm, I'll have to try the chickpea one. Target sells a decent size selection of vegetarian foods, and they just recently expanded it. They have all sorts of "new" things, and I'm looking forward to trying them out.

      And by the way, congrats to you for embracing a lifestyle you believe in, and not backing down when others belittle you in one way or another.

    • epbooks profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thanks Kathryn! Yes! The Target here too just expanded as well, so glad there are more options! And thanks so much. Oh, and I don't get bothered too badly- if someone really had a problem with my choice and couldn't get past it, I'd easily stop talking to them! :)

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